Hockey World Cup: England prepare for opener against China

Danny Kerry
Making it through the World Cup group stages is the first goal for new England coach Danny Kerry

England's men start their Hockey World Cup campaign on Friday with new coach Danny Kerry aiming to better their fourth-place finish four years ago.

They face defending world champions Australia as well as Ireland and China in a tough pool in Bhubaneswar, India.

Belgium and Canada kick off the tournament on Wednesday, with hosts India in action as well.

England have never won either the men's or women's World Cup, which is the biggest event outside of the Olympics.

And Kerry knows it will be no easy task to progress to the knockout stages.

"We have to play exceptionally well to get out of the group and beyond that we'll see where we are," he told BBC Sport.

"It's about doing the job to get out of the group and then we'll reset our goals. It's not my style to say we'll win it!"

One year - two World Cups

Danny Kerry and the England women's hockey team
Danny Kerry speaks to his England players at the women's Hockey World Cup in London in July

It is Kerry's second World Cup of the calendar year. He took England's women to the quarter-finals of their tournament in July in London before switching to become the men's head coach midway through August.

"It's quite exciting. Personally it's my second World Cup in a short space of time and that's a huge workload," he said.

"However, the fellas have been fantastic in terms of their openness and their willingness to try and that's made it a really enjoyable experience over the last eight weeks. We're looking forward to it."

Kerry enjoyed incredible success at the helm of the Great Britain women's programme - winning the 2015 European Championships with England and then the 2016 Olympics with Great Britain.

After men's head coach Bobby Crutchley stepped down in May, Kerry jumped at the chance to take up the task of moving England's men up the world rankings from their current standing of seventh.

A fresh approach

Jack Waller
Jack Waller, 21, is one of a handful of new young faces in England's World Cup squad

The World Cup is Kerry's first major squad announcement in the role and he has not shirked the big decisions.

There are nine Rio Olympians in the squad but Henry Weir, a veteran of more than 150 international caps, is one of the most notable omissions from the squad in favour of some up-and-coming talents, such as 21-year-old Jack Waller and 19-year-old Zach Wallace.

"We've basically picked what we think is currently our best 18 rather than looking to the future," said Kerry.

"The inclusions of the likes of Zach Wallace and Jack Waller are because they've been the best players."

At the other end of the scale, Barry Middleton has been picked to compete in his fourth World Cup and will be looking to add to his record 425 international caps as he closes in on the all-time record of 453, held by the Netherlands' Teun de Nooijer.

Ones to watch

Inevitably, much of the talk will be about reigning champions and world number one side Australia. The Kookaburras won the 2014 final, defeating the Netherlands 6-1 in front of a stunned home crowd. Despite a turnover of players and some tweaks to their playing style they are still expected to pose a significant threat.

Another pre-tournament favourite comes in the form of the European champions, the Netherlands.

The Dutch have been drawn in a potentially tricky pool with Germany, Malaysia and the unpredictable Pakistan.

But with a side boasting the penalty corner threat of Mink van der Weerden, the goalscoring prowess of Mirco Pruijser, the guile of rising star Jorrit Croon and the recalled Jeroen Hertzberger - a man with more than 100 international goals - the Oranje have the firepower to be a threat to anyone.

England's group fixtures

(all times GMT)

30 Nov: England v China, 13:30

4 Dec: England v Australia, 11:30

7 Dec: Ireland v England, 13:30

Ireland's group fixtures

30 Nov: Australia v Ireland, 11:30

4 Dec: Ireland v China, 13:30

7 Dec: Ireland v England, 13:30

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